Juan “Johnny” Antonio Perales Espinosa (Dad), age 79, peacefully passed away in his home, surrounded by his family in the early morning hours of Oct. 20, 2018 in Gonzales. Dad was born on Feb. 8, 1939 in Gonzales to Antonio and Maria (Perales) Espinosa.
He met his sweetheart on a double date when he was more interested in the girl whose hair had soft brown highlights that was also in attendance versus the one he was invited there to meet. After a loving pursuit of her heart, Pauline Mendez Guerrero vowed to be his wife and they began their lives as one in March of 1957 in Luling. He knew Pauline didn’t grow up with much, but he knew she deserved the best he could give and worked hard to provide it.
Dad served the Gonzales community his entire life; first as a young man at his father’s “marqueta” (Spanish slang for “market”) named Toni’s, later as the sole proprietor of a “tiendita” (little store) on College St. and eventually as the owner/cook of Espinosa’s Fine Foods. His hard work, with mom always at his side, was a major reason why their business endured as a staple for home cooked food in town for over 53 years.
His craft was self-taught, stemming from his love of barbecue, which sparked him to create his own recipe for sausage that he cased by hand, his slow cooked brisket which billowed smoke down Espinosa Alley and Badger St. (which was later formally changed by the City to Espinosa St.) and even his turkey and dressing specialty which was moved to a twice a week rotation on his menu due to its high demand. Although he could never explain it, he knew food could heal the soul and found it part of his purpose to provide meals to restaurant patrons free of charge when they experienced serious medical treatments, family loss or even if he sensed they were in one of life’s valleys. His dedication to his life’s passion, ensured that 3 full generations knew the value of their efforts which in the food industry came by learning to roll silverware, brew sweet tea, stocking shelves with supplies, wiping down tables and ensuring that pots and pans were left ready for the following day’s work.
Dad was attentive to gaining knowledge about our world and God’s instruction for it, lending to the fact that his two favorite books were his dictionary and his Bible, which he asked to be laid to rest with. He stressed the importance of education to his children and grandchildren and was very proud of the General Education Diploma (G.E.D) he went back to school to obtain after leaving high school to help his family by working. That milestone was such an accomplishment that he wore his graduation ring with pride until the day he was contacted for a catering job which called for 300 yeast rolls to accompany the meal. Those rolls required kneading by hand and his beloved ring fell captive to the sticky dough causing one of those rolls to be baked with more gold than what their golden buttery tops displayed. He was proud that each of his children knew the best way to honor his educational sacrifice and work was to obtain a degree or trade certification which each did accomplish.
Some of dad’s most cherished moments were working on his farm with his Kubota tractor, feeding his pigs buckets of the restaurant’s overage, laughing at re-run episodes of Sanford and Son, hand delivering food to friends in his neighborhood after family gatherings, stashing cash in his pocket to hand out as “ice cream” money to his grandchildren and great-grandchildren at the end of every visit and the occasional treat of a honey bun when the craving hit.
Dad lived life as a classic gentleman. Most have never seen him in jeans or shorts and he was likely to be the only man in history to ride his lawn mower after church still wearing his tie or repairing a rental property wearing a monogrammed button-down shirt, slacks and shoes which he shined the night before.
As a lifelong member of Sacred Heart Catholic Church, Dad knew the importance of being God centered. He gave his heart to the Lord on Aug. 15, 1974 as documented in his Bible and it was on that day he recited Romans 10:9 professing his life decision. That decision became evident in his character, gentleness to others and in the servant’s heart which he displayed.
His legacy of being a kind, sweet, generous, hard-working man will live on through his surviving wife of 62 years, Pauline; children, Diane Espinosa of Gonzales, Danny Espinosa and wife Terri of Lubbock, Carrie Ayala and husband Jesse of Lake Jackson, Tony Espinosa of Gonzales, Leticia Cenotti and husband Peter of Gonzales and Chris Espinosa and wife Liz also of Gonzales; 12 grandchildren, seven great grandchildren; a his big sister, Mary (Espinosa) Porras of Gonzales and numerous nieces and nephews.
Dad was preceded in death by his parents, three brothers; Jose, Antonio and David Espinosa and a granddaughter, Christy Lynne Espinosa.
Visitation was Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2018 at Seydler-Hill Funeral Home. A mass of Christian burial was celebrated on Wednesday, Oct. 24 at Sacred Heart Catholic Church with his nephew, Father Gabriel Espinosa, as celebrant. Interment followed at St. James Catholic Cemetery. A fellowship meal, catered by Toni’s, followed immediately at Sacred Heart Hall.
Pallbearers were son’s-in-law Jesse Ayala and Peter Cenotti, grandsons Joseph Chavez, Ethan Espinosa and Cory Espinosa, granddaughters Angel Ayala and Caitlin Espinosa and Dad’s loyal right-hand man, Joseph “Popeye” Hastings.
In lieu of flowers, the family has requested monetary memorials may be made to the Sacred Heart Catholic Church Bereavement Fund so that other families may also be comforted with meals and fellowship in their time of emotional loss.
Friends may leave their condolences by visiting www.seydlerhillfuneralhome.com. Services are under the care and direction of Seydler-Hill Funeral Home.